Clumber and Sussex Spaniels

Clumber Spaniel c 1934Clumber Spaniel c 1934

The Clumber and Sussex Spaniels are often considered together because both breeds are heavily built long, low Spaniels. Although both breeds worked by forcing their way through thick undergrowth, the Clumber worked silently while the Sussex sounds his voice when it finds game. At first glance, their most defining difference is their colour - the Clumber is always white while the Sussex is always a rich golden liver. Their other similarities and differences make an interesting comparison.

History of the Clumber Spaniel

Clumber Spaniels c 1788Clumber Spaniels c 1788

This large basically white Spaniel is descended from the Spaniels described in the History of Spaniels. He has been known since the late 1700's in Nottingham in Central England to find and retrieve game from heavy undergrowth in regenerated forests.

The Climber Spaniel becomes a Pure Breed

The Clumber Spaniel is confusingly not connected to the County of Cumberland which is much further north in England. Instead it was first developed in the centre of England by a family of gamekeepers for several Dukes of Newcastle, and named Clumber after the name of their property. Around the time two couples of Clumber Spaniels were featured in the rural hunting scene painting by Francis Wheatley in 1788, the breed began to receive acclaim[1].

Clumber Spaniel c 1859Clumber Spaniel c 1859

Instead of using people to force their way through thick undergrowth to make the birds take flight or cause the rabbits or hare to run, the Clumber was kept for this purpose[5]. This low-set but sturdy spaniel with relatively short ears was unique because he worked silently or mute, with a steady, quiet style of hunting. Additionally, despite his short stature, his white coat could be easily seen through the undergrowth. So he began to be known throughout England long before the Spaniel Separation Saga began in the mid-1800's. His fame then spread through out England where they recognised this Spaniel for his specialised work in heavy undergrowth. Owned and bred by the Prince of Wales who then became King Edward VII became patron of the Kennel Club, the Clumber was the only Spaniel given a separate listing in the First English Stud book[6].

History of Clumber Spaniels in Australia

A Breeders' Group of Clumber SpanielsA Breeders' Group of Clumber Spaniels

In Australia there were seven imports between 1883 and 1904, two males 'Rattler' and 'Tricksey' bred by the Duke of Newcastle, Mr Connell followed in 1896 with a breeding pair and there was also an additional three. But only one progeny from all these dogs is recorded[2].

The Agility of a Clumber SpanielThe Agility of a Clumber Spaniel

The breed then seemed to die out until 1954 when a working pair was imported. From this pair combined with a second import, the breed became re-established in Victoria. More imports arrived and some of the breed received top honours. Ever since, there has been a small but dedicated band of enthusiasts keeping the breed to the fore in Australia[1].

History of the Sussex Spaniel

Sussex Spaniels 1904Sussex Spaniels 1904

In contrast the Sussex Spaniel was developed on the South coast of England to work the hedgerows of the open farmland. Said to have been kept pure for fifty years, in 1859 it was written:

"This (Sussex) Spaniel is much faster in his work than a Clumber, and more lasting, by which qualities he recommends himself to the general shooter....even a single dog will beat (force his way though) a great extent of covert, if he is a good one. He is gifted with a full bell-like tongue, which he varies according to the game before him; and by this means the experienced shooter can tell whether to expect "fur" or "feather" and can also distinguish a hot scent from a stale one"[5].

The Sussex Spaniel becomes a Pure Breed

Sussex Spaniels 1859Sussex Spaniels 1859

As the years rolled by, the Sussex became a victim of the Spaniel Separation Saga rather than remaining pure like the Clumber. This is confirmed by the First English Stud Book when he was included in the same category as the Cocker and Field Spaniels when all Spaniels that had the rich golden liver colour and long heavily feathered ears were called Sussex[4]. In these early days Sussex Spaniels had such short fore legs, they were allowed to have a slight bend[3] which some considered a defect. Today, the Breed Standard is silent on this point. The Sussex was not imported into Australia until 1985.

The Three Main Differences between the Sussex and the Field Spaniel

Field Spaniel (black)Field Spaniel (black)

1. Colour. The Sussex is always a rich golden liver colour and never any other colour. However although the Field Spaniel can also be a liver colour, he should not be the rich golden liver of the Sussex. Additionally the Field Spaniel may be black, black and tan, blue roan, blue roan and tan, liver, liver and tan, liver roan, liver roan and tan.

2. Size. The Sussex is ideally 38-41 cms (15-16 ins) high at withers with an ideal weight of around 50 lbs while the Field Spaniel is taller - around 46 cms (18 ins) high for approximately the same weight, around 18-25 kg (40-55 lbs). In other words the Field is taller and leaner dog in general build than the Sussex.

3. Head. In keeping with the above, the Sussex has a wide head with a moderate curve from ear to ear while the Field Spaniel has a much leaner head.

Comparison between the Clumber and Sussex Spaniels

Clumber Spaniel Sussex Spaniel
General Appearance A strong,well boned dog with a thoughtful expression that is fit and capable of a day's work through heavy undergrowth. A strong active, energetic dog, with a frowning expression. The Sussex moves with a distinct roll unlike any other Spaniel
Size The Ideal weight is 29.5-34 kgs (65-75 lbs) for dogs and 25-29.5 kgs (55-65 lbs) for bitches The ideal height is 38-41 cms (15-16 ins) at withers and the ideal weight is around 50 lbs
Colour Plain white body preferred but lemon or orange markings permissible. There may be slight markings on the head and the muzzle may be freckled. A rich golden liver with the hairs shading to golden at tip. Dark liver or puce undesirable.
Coat Straight, silky, close and abundant with the legs, chest and tail well feathered. The body coat is flat and abundant with a weather resistant  undercoat but the ears are covered with soft, wavy hair with moderate feathering on the legs.
Clumber SpanielClumber Spaniel Sussex SpanielSussex Spaniel
Skull Broad on top, large, square of medium length without excess or being extreme. He has heavy brows with distinct occiput. Wide with a moderate curve from ear to ear which makes it neither flat nor apple headed. He has frowning brows and distinct occiput.
Stop Deep Pronounced
Muzzle His muzzle is square with well-developed flews. The same length as the skull to balance the head with a liver coloured nose
Eyes Dark amber in colour but not full or light and although a little haw is allowable, tight lids are preferable. Fairly large and hazel colour with a soft expression but not showing any haw.
Ears Broad at the base and shaped more like a vine than lobular and well covered with straight hair but not extending below the leather. Thick, fairly large and lobular, set moderately low just above eye level and lying close to the skull.
Mouth A normal scissors bite A normal scissors bite
Clumber SpanielClumber Spaniel Sussex SpanielSussex Spaniel
Neck Fairly long, thick and powerful Long and strong but not carrying the head much above the level of the back. There can be a little dewlap and the hair forms a frill.
Forequarters Shoulders are well laid and the legs short, straight, well boned and strong. Shoulders sloping and well laid. The short muscular forelegs are well boned with large strong joints and short, strong, pasterns.
Feet Large, round and well covered with hair. Round, well padded, well feathered between toes.
Body The body should be long, well muscled and strong and the chest should be deep. The well sprung ribs are carried well back, the loin is very muscular so the underline has only a slight tuck-up. The strong body should be level with no sign of a waistline from withers to hips despite the deep back ribs and round, wide back and loin. But although the chest is deep and well developed, it should not be round or wide.
Hindquarters The hindquarters should be very powerful and well developed with low hocks and well bent stifles. The thighs are strongly boned and muscular with the hock joints large and the strong legs short with good bone. But the hindlegs should not appear shorter than forelegs or appear over angulated.
Clumber SpanielClumber Spaniel Sussex SpanielSussex Spaniel
Tail The tail should be set low and carried level with back and be well feathered. The tail should be set low and not carried above the level of the back. It should be of medium length, gradually taper to a point and be moderately feathered and have a lively action.
Gait He moves straight fore and aft with effortless drive. The movement should be true fore and aft despite the dog having a distinctive roll.

References and Further Reading

Hot off the Press! Jane has just published a book 'Gundogs Unveiled'. Information on our sister website:

Also published as Jane Harvey "The Spaniel Separation Saga" in Dog News Australia (Top Dog Media Pty Ltd Austral NSW) Issue 1, 2016 Page 10

Book Review - 2019 - Jane Harvey - 'The World of Clumbers 2000 - 2005 edited by Jan Irving  published in 'VicDog Magazine' (Victorian Canine Association Inc., Melbourne) Vol 88 March 2019 March No 3 Page 14

  • Also published in Dog News Australia (Top Dog Media Pty Ltd Austral NSW) Issue 2 March 2019, Page 6

[1] 'The History of Purebred Dogs in Australia' published by OzDog Newspaper 1997 Clumber Spaniel by Miss Jan Irving Page 95

[2] Tyzack's Annual' Compiled by T. W.Tyzack and C.S.Turner  Published by the Victorian Poultry and Kennel Club 1912 by Bellamine Bros. Printers, 66-70 Flinders Lane Melbourne Page 90 (Importations) and 43 (Stud Book).

[3] Colonel R Claude Cane, 'The Sporting Spaniel' Cassell's New Book of the Dog' by Robert Leighton assisted by eminent authorities on the various breeds. Published by The Waverley Book Co Ltd Vol 11, Chapter XXVI Page 282-5

[4] H.S. Lloyd M.B.E ('of Ware') - 'The Cocker Spaniel' Published by 'Our Dogs' publishing Company Limited, Oxford Road Station Approach, Manchester UK, Fifth Edition (First Edition Published 1924) Chapter 11 Later History - Pages 14 - 15

[5] Stonehenge, "The Dog in Health and Disease" Third Edition, London: Longmans, Green, and Co 1879 Chapter VII (B) The Clumber Spaniel Page 130 and the Sussex Spaniel Pages 163 - 164

[6] J. Sidney Turner, Chairman and E.W. Jaquet,  Secretary The Kennel Club (UK) The Kennel Club Gazette, May 1910. Page 184